Skip navigation

packing up100

The house is a bit of chaos, piled with boxes, the litter of yet another move.  I long ago lost track of how many places I’ve lived, so this is all quite familiar.  I’m rather expert on packing things in boxes.    Next week it’ll all get shoved in a truck and driven 10 or so miles to another place, a little two story storage shed of a sort, where we’ll spend the next year.  New place will be bigger by maybe almost 50%, is more centrally located in city so the punishing thought of an hour each way to do more or less anything will be cut in half, and it is cheaper.  Or in Korean fashion, almost free:  here you can put down a fat deposit, returnable on departure, and have no rent.  Just what they do with the money to make this a paying proposition for the landlord, I don’t know.   But it is normal here.   So all these boxes will be moved along, and the next day Marcella and I will get to the airport and fly to London where we have 9 days to see friends, go to museums, plays, and such, and then on to Galway, Ireland.  There we show some films – Marcella’s first feature, Landing in the Morning Calm, and then a film we did together, a documentary portrait of Steve Lack entitled Rant, and then the little throw-away short, Mr Right.

aj-park1d XX.jpg

Landing in the Morning Calm, by Marcella Di Palo Jost




Mr Right

The occasion for the screenings is the Galway Film Fleadh, a festival.  A friend of mine in Ireland, Joe Comerford, tried for some years to get me invited, and this year they finally did so.  I confess I did a little of the final bit myself, more or less inviting Marcella and myself.  We’ll be doing a 5 day workshop too, with, if all goes well, a public screening on the last day of the festival of the things made.   So it should be a busy time.  Afterward we’ll take a week to see the Irish west coast, and I hope to do a bit of shooting with the new Excam.  Landscapes I think, but we’ll see what we see.  Taking a little tripod, and some cheaper storage chips that I got after some web-research: 16 gig chips for $100 rather than Sony’s proprietary ones for $500 for 8 gigs.  After Ireland we fly to Bologna to visit Marcella’s sister in Rimini, and some other relatives near Bologna.  I’ll make sure to go to Ravenna, to which I’ve never been, to see the mosaics.  And perhaps to Rome to shoot a quick film, though I think better to pass on that for now.  Then down to Matera in Basilicata, where we’ll nose around the region, while Marcella visits parents.    I return to Seoul end of August, and Marcella will stay on another month to be with family a bit.

Marcella’s film was casually pieced together, initially without a real intention to make a proper film, just shooting with a cluster of Americans living in Seoul, using a little Sony HDR HC9, with its on-board mikes.  After a bit this began to form into a film, in which Marcella and her friend Amber Hill, who plays a lead role, collaborated in developing a minimal bit of story, and in the span from October to March, a film emerged.    I think it came out quite well, an interesting glimpse into the lives of these 20-somethings out in the larger world while still cocooned inside their youthful incestuous smaller one.  Luckily a number of them are musically talented, which Marcella put to good use.  Landing has been sent to a number of festivals, and we’ll see how many take it.

Minnie cuLanding in the Morning Calm

Rant was shot in two bursts, back in 2006-07, on a whim.  I’d met Steve Lack originally when making All the Vermeers in New York, in which he was the lead actor.  We got along well, and on my visits to New York afterward I’d try to see him.  At some point we rather casually thought to make a portrait, and on the next visit, we – Marcella and I – started to shoot – just goofing around without too much forethought aside from my decision to shoot most of it in a slow shutter mode, to have a “painterly” kind of imagery which I thought would be fitting to his work.   Marcella edited the first chunk, and we decided we needed more to fill it out, and on another visit to the East Coast we spent 5 days hanging around with Steve, going upstate to his house and studio near Saratoga, and got another sizable chunk.   Steve digitized pictures of his paintings, we got his son Asher’s first album, Reichenbach Falls, with his band Ravens and Chimes (very nice music) and Marcella set down again to wrestle it into form.  About a year ago it got pretty much finished, running just over 60 minutes.  But somehow it didn’t quite work, being a little too soft.  We sat on it a while, and then I took a look at some material Marcella hadn’t included (or, as it turns out, even looked at), and without changing much in her edit, I added a few things that seemed to give the film a needed bit of bite.  Now runs 87 minutes.   It was pretty much a 50/50 collaboration between Marcella and me, in all senses.  I shot most of it, Marcella did a bit of camera too, she edited mostly, and I added a bit.  It’s our film.  And of course, Steve’s.



Mr Right was shot last year with my students at Yonsei, a little sketch of the lives of these students, revolving mostly around the matter of love, getting married, under the pressures of Korean cultural norms.   It screened at the Rotterdam festival this year in the context of an omnibus work including 2 other 30 minutes shorts done by my students, titled Love in the Shadows.

mira2wide XX.jpg

Mr Right

However, out in the larger world, while we may imagine moving time, it is much more that time moves us.  Currently playing out in the world’s attention is the drama in Iran, seemingly heading toward some kind of conclusion.  Listening to the night-time chants of Allah Akbar, echoing from the rooftops and windows of the city, there is a sense of the organic communal life where hidden in anonymity, the many become one.  Those in power surely must find this sound haunting and deeply threatening:

Just as the populace finds these men threatening.

basij iranian militia

basij militia, the police force of the political powers of Iran

teheran image

Off stage, at least to much of the world, another confrontation is occurring, one which, however seemingly distant, is directly enmeshed in each of us:  as with the conflicts in the Nigerian delta over oil extraction, this one, in Peru, has to do with the re-ordering of indigenous cultures – or of wiping them out – in the interests of corporate powers extracting raw materials to support our “modern lifestyle.”   This is the price:

peru police garcia president

peru thomas quirynen marijke deleu

On a more “personal” level, this past week a cousin of mine died, Cis Porter-Chambers.  She was my age, give or take a year, and had lived what I suppose was a thwarted life.  She wanted to be a writer.  She became a mother, had her children abducted by her husband, and then was estranged from them (in a scenario a bit normal for those – like the mother of my daughter Clara – who seize their children like objects, keeping the other parent from contact, and then indoctrinate them as they will).  For the past years Cissie struggled to stay afloat, and then a year or so ago was hospitalized with colon cancer, had a good piece removed, and then last week was hospitalized again with infection which overwhelmed her.   She had found an English teaching job at a community college which she liked and had begun to think of writing, started a blog.  And life is sometimes cruel.

Moving On 1992

No More 1992

A Walk from the Cage 1986Paintings by Steve Lack


And now back to the boxes and the myriad last minute things of setting off for a trip.


  1. glad you are staying in korea another year. I’ll be moving there next week for at least a year as well. Hopefully we can meet up again.

    • sure thing. back end of august. check in a bit later. how’s indiana? if i remember properly.

  2. Jon, for the independent filmmaker, celluloid may have some life left yet.

    CineVegas 2009: The Promised Land (“Redland,” Asiel Norton)

    by Anna Bak-Kvapil

    Cheap to fund, digitally shot portraits of everyday life compose the heart and soul of contemporary American independent film. But when a director makes the decision to reject casual naturalism, shoot on film and concentrate on visual beauty, the contrast with typical indie fare is revelatory. Shot on 35mm, Asiel Norton’s Redland, which premiered at the 2009 CineVegas Film Festival, is a reminder of how long the spirit of 70’s era Malick, Weir, and Altman have been missing from the independent film landscape. Norton says he wanted “the film itself to look alive, like the film was breathing,” and Redland does seem like a living entity, resplendent with flaws and blurs, textures and shadows.

    Set in an outpost of civilization, Depression-era Redland County, California, the plot follows the stark lines of a Greek tragedy or a passage from the Old Testament. Mary Ann (Lucy Adden), the teenage daughter of a family scraping out an existence on a mountainside, aborts her own child to keep a love affair secret. Her father embarks on a hunting expedition with her lover, and after a delay in the trip, the family begins to starve. Events are abstracted and swallowed up by the atmosphere of the forest, the ebb and flow of nature muting human violence and tragedy. Like McCabe and Mrs. Miller or Picnic at Hanging Rock, the terrain becomes as much a character as the human lives that scramble over it.

    With shaggy beards and a laconic, muffled manner of speaking, the almost interchangeable male characters appear to have wandered directly out of shantytowns and homesteads. Their dignified bearing and hollow cheekbones make them resemble Civil War soldiers gone AWOL, more Mathew B. Brady than Walker Evans. The gamine, blonde Mary Anne, functioning as a lighting rod for the emotions of the male characters, is almost animalistic, melting into woods and fields, a lost soul whose fertile body dictates her fate. Throughout the film she provides a colloquial, enigmatic voiceover, an homage to the naïve narrators of Badlands and Days of Heaven.

    To make the film look like a Hudson River School painting come to life, the DP used anywhere from 7 to 13 filters to impart redwoods, livestock, and flowers with an orange gold glow and hyperreal level of detail. Beads of moisture stand out on mushrooms, salamanders and ants glisten in sun, white feathers on the breast of a chicken look soft and strokeable. The palette of the film, limited to yellows, blues and browns, is at times so sepia toned that it resembles a faded old family album. Intentionally jarring sequences abandon composition for stuttering, hand held camerawork, brushing so close to the characters that only limbs or faces are caught looming out of ambiguous murk. Audio of heavy breathing and shuffling clothing suggests death throes or physical arousal.

    Redland ultimately creates a sense of metaphysical fragility, of lives fractured in the crucible of nature. But more important than the film’s meaning is its look— an American independent film that looks like Redland hasn’t been made in years. The director’s dedication to an aesthetic vision is what makes the film so satisfying and unexpected, especially in the world of independent film. Every single frame of celluloid has been fully realized and produced, resulting in an unusual example of cinematic beauty.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: